Most newly diagnosed diabetes will have a common question, what, how much, when to eat to normalize their blood glucose (sugar).
At the same time, there is ever continuing debate (& studies) over the low carb versus a low-fat diet for diabetes type 2.
Why does diabetes require a specific diet?
Everyone with diabetes wants to prevent blood-glucose spikes & drops. Also, they want,
- to get enough calories with nutrient-rich foods,
- managing weight (with or without weight loss),
- prevent hypoglycemia,
- achieve A1C,
- avoid diabetes complications and
- stop shortening their lifespan.
For this, diabetic should individualize their diet to fulfill their taste buds, eating habit, and budget without spiking the blood-glucose level. You can achieve this by lowering your total carbohydrate intake.
What are the diets to choose for diabetes?
Most probably, your doctor has been telling to cut down the intake of fat, protein, salt, and add a lot of complex carbohydrates. The publications circulated among diabetic patients are also insisting the same. Leading diabetes organizations even though, acknowledging the carbs could be bad for diabetes!
“Why their message is so diluted as well as confusing?”
If the goal of T2D treatment is to lower BS then, why you have to eat foods that raise it? Start reducing carbs that raise your BS. Several low-carb diet advocates have been arguing it is closer to the ancestral diet before the advent of agriculture. Thus, humans genetically are already used to this diet.
Some of the standard diabetes diet plans are:
- Mediterranean diet - includes an abundance of locally grown plant-derived foods (such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, and healthy fats), minimally processed, eggs, red meat, and dairy products. It is a modern nutritional recommendation inspired by the traditional dietary patterns.
- Vegetarian and vegan - The vegan diets are devoid of all ﬂesh foods and animal-derived products such as dairy products. The vegetarian diets are without any ﬂesh foods but including egg and or dairy products. Features of a vegetarian diet may reduce the risk of chronic disease by higher intakes of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and phytochemicals.
- Low-fat diet – means high carb, the daily calorie from fat is 30% or lower, carb 50%, and protein 20%. This diet has been followed/prescribed guidelines for weight control and diabetes control by various leading diabetes organizations. Instead of supporting, it only worsens your diabetes treatment by spiking BS after eating.
- A low-carbohydrate diet is considering as a diet for people with diabetes; the daily calories from carbohydrate are anything less than 45%. You can achieve low carb by eating foods higher in protein (such as meat, poultry, ﬁsh, eggs, cheese, nuts, and seeds), fats (such as oils, butter, olives, avocado), and low-carb vegetables (such as salad greens, cucumbers, broccoli, summer squash). Avoid pasta, rice, potato, and bread.
How do you choose a suitable diabetes diet?
Here are some points to help you with better decision making:
- Know your bodyweight category – such as obese, overweight, optimal weight, or underweight. Use the BMI calculator to know your weight category. If you are more than healthy weight, losing weight help achieving BS target. Use a weight loss calculator to know how much calories to cut for making a weight loss of 0.5 kg (1 pound) per week. Normal-weight individuals should know their calorie's requirement; use the daily calorie's calculator.
- You are vegetarian or non-vegetarian – vegetarian can choose a vegetarian or vegan diet. Still, you need to cut down your carb a little to bring back your blood glucose to normal. For non-vegetarians, there are numerous options to chose.
- What diet you were on before you diagnosed? - Diabetes diet you are going to choose should match your eating habit. It should be convenient to follow by fulfilling your taste buds, readily available, within your budget, and your body has already used to it.
- Other conditions, such as high cholesterol, hypertension, kidney problems, digestion disorders, food allergies, etc., may sometime influence your diabetes treatment. If you have high cholesterol, studies show low-carbohydrate diets causes the triglyceride levels to fall, raise HDL cholesterol levels and nothing to LDL. Therefore, this is a good thing for you to choose a low-carb diet. If you are hypertension (high blood pressure), limit your sodium salt intake, and try replacing it with potassium. If you are having kidney problems, you should be conscious about your protein intake; consult your healthcare team for optimal level of protein. If you are having a digestive disorder or any food allergies, try identifying the problematic food and avoid it. Additionally, consult Gastroenterologists - and get prompt treatment.
There is no fit for all suggestions for a diabetes diet. However, merely saying you should cut down your carb intake to counteract carbohydrate intolerance. You do so (cut-down carb) whenever you experience carbohydrate intolerance to normalize blood sugar.
Additionally, you need to try, test, and modify to betterment your diabetes diet.
We all are different; what works for me may not work for you and vice-versa. Some people naturally lean towards veggie style eating, another set of people lean towards more protein diets, and some others lean towards fat diet. Whatever it is, you should cut down carbohydrate, and added carb should be good one such as whole grain, fiber, and nutrient-rich.
Why do you need to cut down carbohydrate intake?
Every one of us will react differently to carbohydrate; however, as we age, often develop carbohydrate intolerance and higher blood-sugar response to carbohydrate. Carbohydrate intolerance persists for years, even if the BS levels stay in the normal range.
Pancreatic beta cells produce insulin, and it stimulates body cells to uptake glucose from the blood. Over time, the body develops resistance to insulin and needs extra insulin to stimulate body cells to uptake glucose, and this further increases insulin resistance. An increased level in insulin in the blood is the risk factor for triglycerides rise & low HDL cholesterol level in the blood. Also, raised uric acid in gout, high plasminogen-activator-inhibitor-activity (risk towards clotting), and increased risk towards heart attack and stroke.
If a person cannot correctly metabolize carb, then it is quite apparent to cut down the intake of carbohydrates.
Benefits of a low-carb diet in diabetes type2 management
The very low-carb diet (carb< 20 grams/day) can lower:
- Hemoglobin A1C by -1.5% (17% reduction),
- Fasting glucose by 11.2%,
- Fasting insulin by 29%,
- Cravings for sweets are slowly vanished or lowered.
- Diabetes medications were lower or eliminate in almost 95% of type2 diabetes.
What are the other benefits of a low-carb diet?
Some of the most common low carb benefits are as below:
- Can be able to lose weight (by 10%), even without restricting daily calorie's requirement.
- You may feel more energetic than usual.
- Help improves the triglyceride's level in the blood (lower by 32%).
- It reduces total cholesterol (by 2.3%), total cholesterol to HDL ratio (by 8.9%) and triglyceride to HDL ratio (by 34.6%).
- Increase in HDL (good) cholesterol level.
- There is a notable improvement in insulin sensitivity.
- Help decreases your blood pressure (systolic BP by 11.5% & diastolic BP by 9.6%).
- There is a notable improvement in the emotional, mental, and psychological states.
- There is a considerable reduction of insulin level in the blood (by 29%).
- Some with digestion problems also find improvement indigestion and other gastrointestinal symptoms such as heartburn, fullness, etc.